Hard-Boiled at 100: The Don Everhard Stories of Gordon Young

Jun 14, 2017 by

Tradition holds that the hardboiled school of detective fiction began with the publication of Carroll John Daly’s “Three Gun Terry” in the May 15, 1923 issue of THE BLACK MASK. Dashiell Hammett’s first Continental Op story followed a few months later. The magazine’s editor, Joseph T. Shaw, would later nurture the genre to maturity. BLACK MASK would become synonymous with the hard-boiled detective story.

Or so the story goes. Few if any literary genres come into being at a single time and place; rather, they draw their basic elements from earlier literary forms. The detective story is no exception. A key precursor to the hardboiled school can be found in the “Don Everhard” stories of Gordon Young. Now all but forgotten, the stories appeared in the pages of ADVENTURE and SHORT STORIESover the course of a quarter century. The first appeared in 1917, a full six years before Daley’s tale. It anticipated many of the basic elements of the hardboiled school, including character types, plot structure, narrative voice, the treatment of violence, and a skepticism toward traditional social institutions. All would become common in BLACK MASK in the decade that followed.

Over the course of his life, Gordon Ray Young was a cowboy, marine, sailor, marksman, reporter, occasional poet, sport fisherman, bibliophile, and literary critic. More importantly he was a storyteller, the author of some of the finest adventure fiction to grace the pages of the American pulp magazines during the first half of the twentieth century. Appearing regularly in titles such as ADVENTURE, BLUE BOOK, ARGOSY, ROMANCE, and SHORT STORIES, his fiction spanned genres as diverse as westerns, crime stories, South Seas adventure, international intrigue, historical fiction, and humor.  His tales also made the jump to the silver screen as Hollywood adapted five of his stories for the motion pictures. 

Young was born in rural Ray County, Missouri  on September 7, 1886 and inherited from his father a sense of independence and taste for wandering.  At the age of fifteen he was working as a cowboy in eastern Colorado and in 1908 — at the age of 22 — he enlisted in the United States Marines. He saw duty both in the Philippines and on shipboard. Upon mustering out of the Corps, Young took up a career in journalism, working on newspapers in both San Francisco and Stockton, California before taking up a position with the LOS ANGELES TIMES. He served as the paper’s literary editor for more than a decade.

His freelance writing career began with  the sale of a minor short story to THE CAVALIER in 1913.  His career as a writer took off in 1917 when he began selling to A. S. Hoffman’s ADVENTURE.  By 1920, Gordon Young was an established member of that select group of writers, which included the likes of Talbot Mundy, Hugh Pendexter, W. C. Tuttle, and Arthur Friel, who regularly filled the pages of ADVENTURE during the magazine’s glory years in the teens and twenties. His novels soon began to find their way into hardcover publication. His reputation as a writer was spreading beyond the pages of the pulp magazines and coming to the notice of book reviewers.

Young showed great diversity in his writing, producing a wide variety of story types.  South Seas stories, for example, were common in the teens and  twenties, while westerns came to dominate his later career.  His longest running character however, was the hard-boiled professional gambler, Don Everhard. Young’s creation appeared in his very first sale to ADVENTURE in 1917 — “A  Royal Flush of Hearts”  — and continued to appear in more than thirty short stories and novels over the course of his career.

Gordon Young died of heart failure in his home in Los Angeles, California in 1948 at the age of 62.

On Saturday, July 29, PulpFest 2017 continues its celebration of hardboiled dicks, dangerous dames, and a few psychos. Please join us at 8:20 as Tom Krabacher and John Wooley discuss “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” Gordon Young’s Don Everhard: “Hard-Boiled at 100.”

Tom Krabacher is a professor at California State University, Sacramento and a member of the Pulp Era Amateur Press Association. He has previously presented at PulpFest, serving on and moderating panels on WEIRD TALES, the Cthulhu Mythos, and John Campbell’s classic fantasy magazine, UNKNOWN. Tom has also published articles on the pulps and their history in BLOOD ‘N’ THUNDER, THE PULPSTER, and elsewhere.

John Wooley — who will also be presenting on Dan Turner and SPICY DETECTIVE at PulpFest 2017 — has written, co-written, or edited over three dozen books. He has also authored comic books, trading cards, and thousands of magazine and newspaper stories. Winner of the Lamont Award in 2006, Wooley is co-owner, with John McMahan, of the pulp-related Reverse Karma Press. In 2015, John was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians’ Hall of Fame.

(Pictured twice on the cover of ADVENTURE magazine — including the May 1936 issue with cover art by Walter M. Baumhofer — Don Everhard was — according to Jess Nevins — a “professional gambler and amateur justice-dealer . . . .he keeps getting involved in helping others or, more often, settling accounts . . . . He’s a cold man, always calm (even when under fire), always rational, invulnerable to the wiles of women, and extremely experienced in the ways of criminals and violence. He has a reputation for being very violent, ‘the most famous gunman in the country,’ and of having ‘killed more mean than any other fellow in America — and is proud of it.’ . . . He kills in self-defense or when the target is guilty and deserving of execution.”)

Thrilling Detectives

Jun 11, 2015 by

Thrilling Detective 1943-11

I have a little office which says “Terry Mack, Private Investigator,” on the door, which means whatever you wish to think it. I ain’t a crook, and I ain’t a dick; I play the game on the level, in my own way. I’m in the center of a triangle; between the crook and the police and the victim. The police have had an eye on me for some time, buy only an eye, never a hand; they don’t get my lay at all. The crooks; well, some is on, and some ain’t; most of them don’t know what to think, until I’ve put the hooks in them. Sometimes they gun for me, but that ain’t a one-sided affair. When it comes to shooting, I don’t have to waste time cleaning my gun.

Three Gun Terry Mack was the world’s first hard-boiled private eye. The creation of Carroll John Daly, Terry appeared in a pair of stories featured in THE BLACK MASK in 1923 and 1924. He was soon supplanted by Daly’s best known detective, Race Williams, who debuted in the June 1, 1923 issue of the magazine that would become synonymous with the hard-boiled detective story.

THE BLACK MASK was not the only rough-paper magazine where tough-guy detectives made their home. When Popular Publications launched their line of ten-cent pulps, they got the ball rolling with DIME DETECTIVE, another classic in the line of hard-boiled periodicals. Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines was right there with Steeger and Goldsmith, starting his chain of pulp magazines with THRILLING DETECTIVE in the very same month. The first issues of Popular’s and Pines’ new periodicals were dated November 1931.

“Action-packed, well-written and well-planned stories. Novels must be of the trip hammer type, with a murder in the first chapter and others later.” Those were the editorial requirements set forth by THRILLING DETECTIVE in a 1933 issue of THE WRITER. Although they were not always well-written or planned, no one could fault the magazine for a lack of action . . . nor corpses. Under the guidance of managing editor Leo Margulies and his hand-picked staff, THRILLING DETECTIVE ran “rough-and-tumble, corpse-ridden yarns” featuring “suitably hard-nosed and hard-boiled detectives.” As Margulies often opined, his line was “the fastest bunch of all pulps.”

On Thursday evening, August 13th, beginning at 8:40 PM, John Wooley and John Gunnison pay a visit to some of the continuing characters from the Thrilling line of detective pulps — Doctor Coffin, the allegedly dead Hollywood actor turned vigilante, created by pulp and film writer Perley Poore Sheehan; the workaday detectives such as department store detective Don Marko, the creation of Stewart Sterling (whose real name was Prentice Winchell); the extremely prolific Robert Leslie Bellem’s Hollywood gumshoe Nick Ransom who, like his better known counter-part Dan Turner, “torches a gasper” or “sets fire to a coffin nail” when he lights a cigarette; and the bindlestiff crimefighter, Baghdad, Hobo Detective, written by Milton Lowe and featured in a pair of stories that ran in POPULAR DETECTIVE.

Then we’ve got the wartime creation of “Walt Bruce” — an allegedly Chinese crimefighter known as Dr. Zeng who is actually the son of white missionary parents. Written by Bellem and W. T. Ballard, the Zeng stories came about through the encouragement of the Office of War Information, which thought that playing up our Chinese allies in stories was a wonderful idea. Dr. Zeng’s sidekick Lai Hu Chow, who is really Chinese, has an artificial leg in which he can carry weapons and other useful stuff.

Of course, there’s also Race Williams, one-time BLACK MASK big dog who famously boosted sales of the magazine every time he was featured on the cover. The end was coming into sight for Race and his creator. Carroll John Daly moved into comic books after the death of the pulps. Race appeared in a handful of stories published in THRILLING DETECTIVE before he found his way into SMASHING DETECTIVE STORIES during the early fifties.

John Wooley is the author, co-author, or editor of more than thirty books, including the recent HARD-BOILED CHRISTMAS STORIES. John also penned the script for the made-for-TV movie DAN TURNER, HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVE, the award-winning independent film CAFE PURGATORY, and the documentary BILL BOYCE – MONEY ACTOR. He has also written comic books, trading cards, and thousands of magazine and newspaper stories, most of them in conjunction with his work as the music and horror-movie writer for the TULSA WORLD, a position he held from 1983 through 2006. He is currently a contributing editor and columnist for OKLAHOMA MAGAZINE and full-time freelance writer specializing in pop-culture subjects. This year, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Historians’ Hall of Fame.

John Gunnison is one of the foremost pulp dealers in the world. He’s the owner of Adventure House, a firm that not only deals in pulp magazines and other paper collectibles, but also publishes pulp replica editions and other material, including the much-admired HIGH ADVENTURE. John is the author of BAUMHOFER: PULP ART MASTER and BELARSKI: PULP ART MASTER, and co-author of THE ADVENTURE HOUSE GUIDE TO THE PULPS, one of the foremost reference works concerning pulp magazines. For Collectors Press he helped design Frank M. Robinson’s PULP CULTURE, Max Allan Collins’ HISTORY OF MYSTERY, Ron Goulart’s COMIC BOOK CULTURE, and other works. John was formerly the editor and publisher of THE PULP COLLECTOR, a leading pulp fanzine in its day.

Join the two Johns for a look at some of the most intriguing continuing detective characters that the Thrilling group published, along with a few of their creators on Thursday, August 13th, at 8:40 PM. To learn more about this and all of our PulpFest 2015 programming, please click the “schedule” button on our home page at www.pulpfest.com.

(Another leading author to appear in THRILLING DETECTIVE and other Standard detective pulps was Benton Braden. He got his start in 1933 by placing a story in Street & Smith’s CLUES ALL STAR DETECTIVE STORIES. A few years later, he found his way to Standard with a short novel entitled “Face Fixers.” It ran in the July 1936 issue of POPULAR DETECTIVE. Soon thereafter, he began the “Mr. Finnis” series for THRILLING DETECTIVE. It concerned a wealthy young bachelor who, “when he became the deadly foe of crime . . . his features seemed to have set as though they were granite. His eyes were smoldering, bitter, resolute in determination to kill or be killed.” Benton also wrote the “Percentage Kid” stories for Standard as well as the adventures of Willie Brann, a gumshoe with an insatiable appetite for peanuts who packed a “pair of gats which brought terror to . . . the underworld.”  Braden continued writing for the company through 1952. One of the Brann stories appears in the issue pictured here, the November 1943 number of THRILLING DETECTIVE. The cover artwork is by George Rozen.

To learn more about the Thrilling Group and THRILLING DETECTIVE and read some of its stories, pick up a copy of THRILLING DETECTIVE HEROES, edited by John Locke and John Wooley and published by Adventure House in 2007.)